By Mike Fitzpatrick
Both of these sides are still well within sight of making the playoffs.
Coming into this senior football Div. 1 tie, Duke Devlin’s Ulster men only needed a point from the tie, whereas Westmeath needed three from four in their last two games. A rather tall order, considering Tyrone and Stamford were to be their last two opponents.
The ingredients were there for a cracking game of football as Westmeath and Tyrone are two sides of four senior division one teams fighting for three remaining playoff positions (Donegal have already qualified).
The Ulster men were arguably the favorites coming into the tie possessing among their ranks league top scorer Mickey Slowey, along with fellow all star Sean Teague, and solid point scorer Eoin Gormley.
It was Gormley, in fact, who for once stole Slowey’s thunder and proceeded to outscore the Tyrone Terror. Westmeath had in their lineup a number of footballers capable of mixing it with the best. With proven scorers such as Niall Finnegan and Jarlath Fallon, New York goalkeeper Emmet Haughian and experienced players such as Collie Mathers and Brian McCabe in their side, Westmeath proved to be up for this serious challenge.
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Westmeath opened the scoring, with an early goal from full forward Niall Finnegan, and a point from Fallon. Tyrone replied thanks to efforts from Gormley and Slowey. It soon became obvious that Westmeath were not about to give away too many silly free kicks, which was an intelligent tactic, as Mickey Slowey’s accuracy in dead ball situations has proved lethal in the past.
The first half continued with Westmeath moving into a lead which they seemed to have no intentions of losing. Martin Slowey of the Tyrone half back line gave one of his best displays of the season, providing a crucial link between defense and attack, and refusing to give the ball away under any circumstances. Going into the half time break, Westmeath led by a score of 1-6 to 0-5, assisted hugely by Finnegan’s early goal.
Tyrone commenced the second half as the more attacking side, hitting points from Mallon, Gormley and Slowey. The Ulster side outscored their opponents in the second half, but continuing scores from Westmeath’s Finnegan and Fallon held their lead.
Eventually winning by a narrow two point margin, Westmeath will be glad to have gotten this tough tie out of the way, and only need a draw from their last game to clinch qualification. It’s far from over yet though. There’ll be one disappointed side from the quartet of Stamford, Tyrone, Westmeath and Leitrim, and it would be no mean achievement to pick one out.
Westmeath: Emmet Haughian, Collie Mathers, Frank Kavanagh, Jimmy Hughes, Tom Quinn, Kenny McGinlay, Tommy Moriarty, James Kavanagh, Sam Yore, Damian Gavin (0-1), Jarlath Fallon (0-4), Martin Murtagh (0-1), Dave Fitzgerald, Brian McCabe, Niall Finnegan (1-3) Subs: Barney Healy
Tyrone: Mike Deere, Aidan Lloyd, Sean Teague, Remo Higney, Philip Sloan, Martin Slowey, Collie Fearon, Danny Barr, Seamus O’Hanlon, Peter Loughran, Michael Slowey (0-4), John Cormican, Philip Mallon (0-1), Eoin Gormley (0-6), Darren Flanagan. Subs: Duke Devlin, Barry Tally, Paddy Redmond.